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Peñafrancia devotion still strong sans ‘traslacion’

SHOW OF FAITH In this file photo, devotees of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia join the “traslacion” in Naga City to honor the patroness of the Bicol region. This year, no procession will be held for the feast of Peñafrancia, one of largest crowd-drawing religious events in the country, due to health protocols prohibiting mass gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic. —MARK ALVIC ESPLANA

The city government of Naga in Camarines Sur province has set stricter travel restrictions to regulate the arrival of pilgrims during the feast of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Bicol region’s patroness, following the Archdiocese of Caceres’ announcement that the Marian event will be held without its processions this year.

The novena for the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, which started on Sept. 11 and will last for a week, has been streaming on the Archdiocese of Caceres’ social media page as the government continues to ban mass gatherings and religious activities that draw large crowds as a measure to stem the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

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Fr. Luisito Occiano, director of Caceres Commission on Communication, said the archdiocese had discouraged pilgrims and devotees to go to Naga but asked them to celebrate the feast of “Ina,” as the patroness is called in Bicol, in parishes nearest them.

“Naga City has strict border controls now so that nonresidents are discouraged to enter the city,” he told the Inquirer in a telephone interview last week.

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Churches open

He said the Metropolitan Cathedral and Parish of St. John the Evangelist, and the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia would be open to residents who wanted to attend Mass, but would be closed once they reach 50 percent of their capacity.

In a memorandum on Sept. 10, Naga City Mayor Nelson Legacion directed the police to close church premises to regulate the number of people gathering.

The image of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia is traditionally transferred from her official home with the Divino Rostro (Divine Face of Jesus) at Peñafrancia Basilica Minore to Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, accompanied by thousands of devotees and pilgrims during the “traslacion” (religious procession) on the second Friday of September.

At the end of the novena, or on the third Sunday of September, the images are returned to the basilica minore on a pagoda, or barge through a fluvial procession along the Naga River.Merryll Seriña, 25, a resident of Albay province, said she would join the celebrations online. “Though we cannot physically attend the novena Masses, we will still find a way to celebrate,” she told Inquirer.

Blaise Ilan, one of the “voyadores” (male devotees) and a resident of Camarines Norte province, said: “I believe that it is best to cancel the procession for the safety of everyone. The important thing is our continued faith and trust in Ina despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.”

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